Shipwrecks of Milton-Ulladulla

Early in local European settlement, travel by sea was the quickest and most economical way to transport both passengers and produce to other places. Not until the early 1950s were roads and road vehicles efficient enough to totally replace coastal shipping. Vessels to and from Britain, European and other ports regularly passed along our coastline. Before settlement whalers and sealers ranged as far south as Bass Strait.

Shipwrecks often arise from multiple factors. Charts took years to refine. Navigation depended on regular sightings of the sun using a sextant and poor visibility was a frequent problem.  Sailing ships had no engines to escape from difficult situations. The eastward curvature of Wreck Bay, the reefs at the entrance to Ulladulla Harbour and those around Brush Island were traps for unwary navigators. Gales generated by east coast lows have contributed towards many tragedies. Human error must also be considered.

The mystery wreck sometimes seen by divers off Warden Head may well have been a whaler, a sealing vessel or a ship for transporting cedar logs. Many vessels of all kinds set out from port, and simply disappeared without trace. Other vessels lost on the Ulladulla Reefs were the schooner Susan in 1849 and the Alfred Edward in 1876.

One of the best known vessels wrecked in Wreck Bay was the fully rigged ship Walter Hood which ran aground in 1870 with the loss of fifteen lives. A fierce storm ripped its sails, sightings were impossible for several days and it was driven ashore by winds and currents. The local law court was busy for months trying locals who pillaged cargo. Another eight vessels at least were lost in this area, including the convict ship Hive in 1835.

The wreck of the Northern Firth at Brush Island near Bawley Point in 1932

The steam vessel Northern Firth was one of a number of vessels which have run onto rocks around Brush Island. Its cargo also proved popular with locals, especially the alcohol. The wooden barquentine Camden was washed ashore in shallow waters between Brush Island and the coast in 1853.

More recently the cargo ship Coastal Farmer was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942 and HMAS Voyager was sunk north east of Ulladulla in a collision in 1964 with HMAS Melbourne.

by Barrie Wilford